I have never known Maximilian Büsser to have a bark or a bite, but then again I’ve never worked for him or lived with him, so my perception of his potential aggressiveness could be completely off (and honestly, please don’t kill my illusion of him if it is). What I have known him to be, however, is loyal, which may subconsciously be the reason he considers himself a dog person.
On Tuesday, March 24th, as many in the horological world watched the numbers of those infected by the COVID-19 virus rise steadily in real time via Worldometers.info, while at the same time several others in the industry closed their businesses, homeschooled their children, and tried desperately to find household paper products and soap of any kind at nearby supermarkets and pharmacies, the team at MB&F was busy launching their latest Horological Machine: the fantastically quirky HM10 Bulldog.
While those of you who don’t frequently float about in the watch universe may have just read that last paragraph and responded with a, “Dafuq she just say?”, those who do, know that we all collectively let out a much needed sigh of relief. Speaking as a member of the media, it was refreshing to see an email come through that – for the first time in weeks – didn’t inform me of a factory closure or a cancelled trade fair or event. The release of the HM10 Bulldog was a significant occurrence at that moment for several reasons, but what it showed me personally was that the team at MB&F stood steadfast in their belief of remaining loyal to their collectors, their retailers, and their media friends, by providing all of us with the most delightfully jaw-dropping (literally) example of unequivocal joy in a time that was being overwhelmed by despair, darkness, and unwanted distance.
They say you’re either a cat person or a dog person. They also say you’re either a Beatles person or an Elvis person (but I don’t believe that to be true, and who the hell are “they” anyway?). If I had to choose the type of domestic animal with which I’d be most similar, I’d have to say that without any hesitation my answer is most certainly cats. Cats have no time for sweet talk or bullshit. They want to be cuddled when they feel like it and want nothing to do with you when you seek attention in return. They’re difficult and fickle. They are feminine in movement yet will violently scratch your eyes out when cornered or crossed. But cats are also strongly independent in all the best ways. Like I said, they’re pretty much me with more luxurious hair and far more Instagram followers than I’d ever get. But as for the mad genius known as Max, he has his reasons for being drawn to – and feeling associated with – “Man’s Best Friend” which, when I interviewed him for this piece, he willingly explained in detail.
Barbara Palumbo: Max, you say in the video released by MB&F for the new HM10 Bulldog that you’ve always been a dog person. Why do you say so? What draws you to dogs other than their loyalty, which I can only imagine is important to you?
Max Büsser: I grew up with dogs and had my dog, a golden retriever by the name of Flash, from when I was 9 years old until I was 22. Flash was like most golden retrievers: a source of unconditional love and fun. I have often explained that I was very lonely growing up, and Flash was an incredibly important source of emotional support in my younger years. He would sleep on my bed every night – we would battle for space as I grew up – and whenever I was sick, he would never leave my side, just running out to gobble his food and back immediately after. We lived in the Swiss countryside, and I spent hours roaming around with him by my side. He replaced (in a way) the love and attention I so craved from my father but felt I was not getting.
BP: Do you have a dog now?
MB: Unfortunately, since Flash passed away 31 years ago, I have never had another dog. I would love to have a dog now that I finally have a family and we have a house, especially for our children, but the logistics of living in Dubai and then travelling around Europe for the two summer months, makes it a bit more complicated.
BP: I completely understand your dilemma, as we are currently in a debate in our own household on whether getting a dog would be feasible with my travel schedule. I do want to further ask you though, you state in your interview video that you were in Tokyo on your way to the airport several years ago, jet-lagged, when the vision of this watch came to you. Was it something you saw during your trip? Some sign or significance that stuck with you?
MB: There seems to be, at least as far as I recall, no real link between that visit to Tokyo and the HM10 Bulldog except that I envisioned it there and then. I actually saw it in my mind. That was the first time my mind created a piece without sketching it and in reality, I have not sketched one since. Every other piece after the Tokyo experience has “appeared” in my mind in 3D. But that first time… that pretty much freaked me out. I felt a little like Christopher Walken in the movie ‘The Dead Zone’.
(Editor’s note: I had to search for ‘The Dead Zone’ on Netflix in an attempt to fully understand that reference, but when I realized it was a horror movie I made my husband watch it by himself and explain it to me afterward.)
BP: Having now known you for a few years Max, I feel that you and your team likely debated on whether or not to release this piece right now, in the midst of a pandemic unlike anything we’ve experienced in our lifetimes. What was the deciding factor in going full steam ahead? (For the record, it feels as if the general consensus is that everyone [including yours truly] is happy that you did.)
MB: Oh yes, we debated the release intensely for weeks. Especially after realizing that the closer the launch date got, the more chaos the world was in. But we decided to go ahead for two main reasons: first, we had already delivered fifteen HM10 ‘Bulldogs’ to our retailers in the weeks before, and many of our customers had already pre-ordered the new release since we toured the world in January to compensate for Watches & Wonders [formerly SIHH] having been moved to March. We were in this weird situation where the retailers had the new pieces, the customers had already ordered them (and in some cases, fully paid for them), but going forward could not happen unless there was an ‘official’ launch. The second reason is that whenever someone saw the HM10 Bulldog, a big grin would appear on their face. And in these insanely dark times we thought, let’s take the risk of making a few people smile even if others may be offended. It was this way of thinking that led us to making this very tough decision, and based on the feedback we’ve gotten since, I think we really did well.
BP: If this release – which is pretty much a “blind” release in the sense that the watches are not able to be seen firsthand or handled by many of us around the world where an MB&F gallery or retailer doesn’t exist – is as successful as the Horological Machines or Legacy Machines you’ve released in the past at trade fairs such as Baselworld and SIHH, do you believe it will change your way of thinking about exhibiting at those types of fairs in the future? Obviously, it’s quite expensive to exhibit at any trade fair these days, so do you think this pandemic will alter how watch brands showcase their creations from here on in?
MB: During the first seven years of our company, we did not have any money to exhibit during a trade show. Instead, I would travel the globe for four, five, or six weeks at a time with those “around the world” airline tickets (which were far less expensive to purchase) and it was much more effective than showing at events such as Baselworld or SIHH. But then a mix of three elements – our creation of many more new products per year, our ability to finally afford a booth at those fairs, and my desire to travel less after my first daughter was born – made me start exhibiting in Basel and then also in Geneva at SIHH. Most observers did not understand why we would always exhibit at both shows. The answer was simple for us: we launch nine to twelve new products every year (almost one per month) so it became the norm that we would present our first semester novelties to our retailers at SIHH in January and the second semester novelties at Baselworld in March.
So, what is going to happen now? I really don’t know. I am QUITE curious about the Geneva Watch Days initiative spearheaded by Jean-Christophe Babin. The beauty of that project is that it may federate fifty to seventy brands without any central committee or organizer telling them what to do or how to do it. The costs are 100% the responsibility of each brand, and no one forces you into anything. A brand can start with just renting a suite in a hotel or doing a pop up in a store, or they can even go as far as taking over an entire hotel and creating their own event. It reminds me very much of how it is at the OFF section of the Salone del Mobile in Milano.
BP: So, let me ask you then, when was your original scheduled release date for the HM10 Bulldog? Was it Baselworld or was it the now-postponed Geneva Watch Days event that you just spoke of? Or hell, was it neither?
MB: The launch date for the HM10 had always been March 24th. However, during Watches & Wonders at the end of April, we were also going to unveil a really cool performance art collaboration. Not sure when we will be able to get that one out now.
BP: I’m sure you’ll figure out the perfect time for that release just as you did for this one. So, last question, are you full steam ahead with whatever is to come next at your factory, or have you slowed everything down a bit with all that is going on in the world right now?
MB: Up until now, in times of difficulty, I always abided by “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” mantra. I have always been a warrior. Last Wednesday, however, we were forced to close the company and send everyone home, and I have felt, ever since that moment, as if I am sitting on the sidelines for the first time of my life.
But with this global shutdown of the planet (isn’t this insane?), there is really not much we can do. It took me a good week to get out of my feeling of helplessness which was bordering on depression. I am now finally getting over it. Every plan we had devised had been shattered, and that’s when you realize that plans have suddenly become pointless. We will live day after day and see what can be achieved one step at a time. Now is the time to become way more fluid, nimble, and flexible (something we were not too bad at before, but now we need to get it to a whole different level). We have five years of projects and products in the pipeline and we will see how and when we manage to come out with them. In the meantime, I taught my eldest daughter to ride a bicycle and I am working on helping my younger one to swim.
Lemons and Lemonade.
The MB&F HM10 Bulldog is available in either the Grade 5 titanium version with blue hour and minute domes (serving at the Bulldog’s “eyes” encased in a domed sapphire crystal “head”), or the 18K red gold and titanium version with black hour and minute domes. One look at the piece may strike fear into someone with a small wrist, but the HM10 Bulldog measures 45mm across, which is a fair amount shy of say, the HM7 Octopod, which came in at nearly 54mm in diameter all around. And while the length of the Bulldog’s body is the same of the entire diameter of the HM7, the Bulldog’s “legs” – the moveable lugs attaching the case to the elegantly crafted hand-stitched leather strap – allow its body to conform to the wrist of the wearer, thus giving the watch a more comfortable appearance.
But even though the HM10’s eyes, legs, head, and body are representative of a stoutly English bulldog, it’s really the “jaws” of the watch that have horological heads exploding. The watch’s hinged jaws (complete with detailed teeth) open and close according to the amount of manual wind left in its mainspring. When the watch is nearly out of power, the jaws of the Bulldog will be completely closed. However, if the teeth are showing and the jaws are opened, that means that the Bulldog is wound up and fully charged with 45-hours of ball-chasing power reserve.
“Before you get on that plane, Barbara, I want you to read this in its entirety. Promise me you’ll read it all.”
The above statement was made by my husband in 2017 as he handed me a stack of papers he’d just printed out from a government website. I’d never visited the Middle-East, nor had he, but we both understood that, well, I am who I am (a strong-minded woman who grew up in inner-city Philly who can sometimes stand her ground a little too strongly), so he wanted to make sure that I didn’t get myself into trouble.
“What is this?” I said.
“It’s the UAE laws and guidelines.” He replied. “Read it, because I know you, and regardless of your toughness, you’re a rule follower at the end of the day. So here… here are the rules. I know you’ll do what’s right.”
It’s true. I may frequently use several four-letter words (often in the same sentence) and sure, I’m fond of a drink or two (I CAN HEAR YOU ROLLING YOUR EYES) but as someone who came from a long line of military members and policemen (on my mother’s side), I happen to be a law-abiding citizen, probably to the point of ridiculousness sometimes. Rarely have I had a parking ticket. I’ve never touched an illegal drug. And, likely to the dismay of some of the publications for which I’ve written in the past, I refuse to put my name on advertorial pieces that aren’t disclosed as such. Will I wear clothing and shoes that are probably meant for women younger than I? Sure, but there’s no law in the U.S. saying I can’t. At least, not for now. So I did what my husband suggested, and I read the whole packet, cover to cover, in order to make sure I was on the up and up.
While packing my suitcases for the trip, I kept in mind what I’d read, because even aside from the rules, what was more important to me was that I respected the culture of those who invited me as their guest. Here I was, only a couple of years into covering watches, and I’d been invited to attend this prestigious event with watch journalists from all across the globe; many whom I had not yet met. I knew just how lucky I was, so it was important to me not to mess up. The problem was, in 2017, I was so focused on not offending anyone that I forgot that it was okay to actually have a little fun. Because, as the hotel concierge reminded me after I asked her if my outfit was culturally appropriate (for the 3rd day in a row), “Miss, seriously, this is Dubai. You really need to lighten up.”
Flash-forward to 2019…
Two years later, and a whole lot wiser, I was anxious to get back to the city of Dubai. No packets of rules to read. No nervousness about whom I might offend (okay, well, that’s not entirely true. I can always offend *someone*… I mean, you’ve met me, right?), and two years into knowing the Emirati people and several expats who happen to live there. You see, I made friends while in Dubai the first time, both through Dubai Watch Week as well as just out and about. And these friendships taught me a lot about what Dubai is really like, what their citizens are like, and what is expected from those who visit the city, so this time around, my nervousness was replaced by sheer excitement, and I truly looked forward – with a different set of eyes – to my second ever Dubai Watch Week.
A Whole New World
From the impeccable service on the Emirates flight over to the interestingly wonderful conversation had with the driver who brought me to the Waldorf Astoria for my stay, the trip started off in exactly the way I needed it to. I landed in the evening on Tuesday the 19th of November which meant I got to see the city at night from the sky, and the view was as majestic as one might think.
Once landed and connected to Wi-Fi, the various WhatsApp messages from colleagues started rolling in. “Are you here yet?” “Did you get in safely?” “Have you eaten, because I’m starving?!” “I’M LOOKING AT THE BURJ FROM THE ROOFTOP POOL! GET DOWN HERE!” No, I hadn’t eaten, and getting down there was exactly what I did.
A big part of the reason I’d been invited to Dubai Watch Week in the first place was because there were people in the watch community – highly respected people – who recommended me to the organizers back in 2017. This year, it was my turn to pay that favor forward, so when I was first told the theme of the 2019 edition, (“Innovation and Technology”) there was one person I knew I had to recommend as a speaker: Quantum Physicist, Michael Biercuk.
I first met Mike back in January at the (then) SIHH when he was at A. Lange & Söhne as a guest of the brand. With so many things in common (for example, he’s an Ivy League educated professor and I once contracted poison ivy while at my son’s little league game), we became fast friends, even meeting up in D.C. for dinner one time while both there on different business trips. What pulled me in most about Mike was how comfortable he is speaking to an audience and how relatable he is able to make quantum technology to them (and, to me). The guy comes off as a season professional, even with how young he is, and he’s brilliant on paper yet super approachable in person, and after watching his TED talk on YouTube, it was obvious he knew what to do with a crowd. The tie-in, though, is that Mike is also a watch collector, and he’ll often use the example of the Tourbillon when he speaks to or teaches his students about quantum tech, so after sending off some information about him to the future poet laureate that is Dominique Mahoney – the woman largely responsible for making the “Horology Forum” aspect of DWW a success – and hearing that he’d been invited, I was looking forward to a celebratory libation once on solid ground.
We headed to an empty section of the pool patio overlooking the magnificent Burj Khalifa before eventually being joined by watch personalities Richard Stenning, DOCTOR Andrew Hildreth, Adam Craniotes, and ¾ of the Hodge family (Aldis, Yolie, and Briana). And after some watch talk, quick bites, laughs, and sips, we adjourned to our rooms to get a good night’s sleep before the festivities began the following morning.
Let’s Get it Started in Here
Wednesday the 20th was designated as the official press day for Dubai Watch Week, with events scheduled that were to include the opening day press conference and a tour of the grounds at the DIFC (including the Rolex and Chopard pop-ups as well as the Christie’s and Watchbox spaces, and the grand hall which would house the showcasing watch brands). The day was to conclude with visits to iconic tourism spots around Dubai, which frankly, I’d been quite looking forward to. What the organizers had not counted on, however, was rain – a LOT of rain – and since “Murphy’s Law” is something familiar to us all at one time or another (for those who grew up under a rock, that’s the adage that “anything that can go wrong will go wrong”), a plan B was quickly concocted and eventually the international press squad found themselves dry and back at the Waldorf for a three course lunch and some time to relax (or do work) before the opening ceremony that evening. I, of course, opted for a change of clothing which resulted in a bright red Karl Lagerfeld dress, D&G by Dolce & Gabbana black wool shrug, patent leather strappy Coach heels, and my two-tone Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso.
After the opening cocktail and dancing at the Cipriani pop-up, a crew of us – including Justin Mastine-Frost, Professor Mike, and Miguel Seabra – were beckoned by our colleagues to join them at the Luna Sky Bar at the Four Seasons in the DIFC for one last libation before turning in, that is, once we figured out how to get there (lost, much?).
Day two for members of the press started off with a beautiful breakfast at the hotel, courtesy of our hosts, before we headed off to whichever event was on our individual schedules. Thanks to this year’s Dubai Watch Week app, attendees no longer had to wear cheesy name tags or cumbersome show badges, as our “badge” was an easily accessible QR code in the app, itself (which is brilliant because let’s face it, who doesn’t go anywhere without their mobile device in their hand?) The app not only provided an easy way to remember what was next on my schedule, but as someone who takes care when it comes to selecting my daily attire, I was happy not to have some oddly colored paper badge hanging from my neck.
First on my schedule was the Horology Forum panel titled, “Making the Waitlist” which featured Mohammed Seddiqi, Adam Craniotes, and Hamden Al Hudaidi as panelists, and journalist Robin Swithinbank as the moderator. This was one of the panel discussions to which I was most looking forward because of how foreign it is to me as someone who has never been on a wait list – for anything – in her life. (I’m not kidding. I’m an Aries and we’re ridiculously impatient so waiting isn’t exactly part of our routine.) This was an eye-opening discussion and I feel that Robin was one of the best moderators of the entire event. I followed up this panel with a visit to the Creative Hub to listen to Bulgari’s creative director Fabrizio Buonamassa wax poetic about the brand while educating attendees on the timeline of Bulgari’s now infamous Serpenti collection.
I closed out the day by attending the “What Brings You Here?” panel which also included Mr. Buonamassa as well as Pascal Raffy of Bovet, Actor and watch designer Aldis Hodge, and the aformentioned Professor Biercuk (FYI – it’s pronounced “BEER – SICK” should you not want to be corrected by the professor, himself). This panel was particularly interesting because it focused on those of us who didn’t start out in the watch industry, but who found ourselves drawn to it for one reason or another.
Aldis – for those who are unaware – is an anomaly in this industry for a variety of reasons. Reason number one is because frankly, anyone can see that he doesn’t *have* to continue on his quest to start a watch brand. He’s a successful and talented actor who has appeared in numerous films and other projects alongside some of the world’s most respected artists, but Aldis is hell-bent on seeing this project of his through, because as he tells it, “I started this. This is what I started for me, and so I have to finish it.”
Day two (which I think was Thursday but it’s all a bit of a blur if I’m being totally honest) ended with three (THREE!!!!) brand events: The Grand Seiko cocktail hour at the Cipriani pop-up, the HYT international launch of their new H5 series watch (which, by the way, is MAGNIFICENT! Well done, Grégory and team), and Chopard’s Alpine Eagle launch celebration. And yes, I managed to go to all three and survive, but not before Robin Swithinbank and I unofficially adopted Melika Yazdjerdi as our daughter, which, happened to be right after the entire watch journalism community sang Bohemian Rhapsody at the Chopard party, and right before Philippe Dufour and Marc Andre Deschoux went down to funky town on the dance floor with Instagram’s beloved, @mrgreencertified.
TRUST ME. YOU HAD TO BE THERE.
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!
I’ll say it again, Dubai Watch Week brings the entire watch world together, which is why we weren’t surprised when, after leaving the Chopard party to head to Luna (again, and not for the last time), we found ourselves in the presence of “The Man” himself, Mr. Jean-Claude Biver, who’d just flown in from Boston after his visit to Harvard Business School (where, if you’re unaware, Mr. Biver is a case study).
If this wasn’t a mic drop on the day, I’m not quite sure what could have been.
The Song Remains the Same
Because this post is already over 2000+ words strong, I’ll spare you a novella in the making and simply say that the rest of the week was similar to the first couple of days in that attendees were treated to extraordinary experiences in the form of education, classes, entertainment, releases, food, fun, and more. Some of the other Horology Forum panels I found most intriguing were, “Apocalypse II” which compared the quartz watch crisis of the 70s to the smart watch dilemma of today, “Control Freak” which delved into how much control brands have (or, “want”) over their retailer partners, and vice versa, and “Les Femmes Sauvages” which shed light on women who’ve come into power in fields largely dominated by men. Oh, and Fiona Krüger’s watch design class was LEGIT.
But of course, I would be a failure of a writer if I didn’t mention the panel I was asked to moderate; a creative take on an audience Q&A called, “Hot Potato” which happened also to be the last panel at Horology Forum. Dominique informed me that this was the only panel she hadn’t written a poetic introduction for, so I asked her if she, Hind, and Melika would be okay with me writing my own. Once I got the green light, I spent an hour in my room on Saturday evening before heading out to the Ulysse Nardin reception and penned what I thought might be a solid introduction (yet nowhere near as well as Dom, herself, could have done) to the panel and its speakers.
For those who asked, here is how it went:
Once upon a time, there was a woman named Dom
Who made poems for panels, which I thought was the bomb.
So imagine my shock when Dear Dom shared a secret
That made her feel anxious; filled with much regret.
“BARB” she addressed me, because that’s my “Dom” name
“I’m so sorry, but your panel, it will not be the same.”
“While the others presented by me were in verse
Yours will, well, please don’t be terse”
“You see, I ran out of time, and I just couldn’t do it.
But it’s you, Barb, so I know, you’ll completely get through it”
Hurt and in shock, I lied through my teeth
“Sure, Dom, I got this, though my rhymes may be brief.
So without hesitation, and without joke or jest,
Please, allow me, to introduce to you, these four fabulous guests.
Watchmaker, Executive, Collector, Retail
These four fine gents are familiar with detail.
Adam Craniotes is Redbar’s voice and its face
And as EIC of Revolution, US, he has found a new space
To share thoughts about watches/write words about time
And since I’m now on his payroll, I’ll say, I think he’s sublime
The next speaker before you, Mr. Christophe Nicaise
Business Development Officer at Seddiqi Holding, well, he just has a nice face.
He is French. He is kind. He is smart. Dresses well.
And if you don’t like his shoes, you can all go to…
the Dubai Mall because there are tons of shoe stores there.
Danny Govberg and I, we are from the same town
I grew up knowing his store was the best store around
CEO and Co-Founder of the WatchBox Brand
I’m sure Dubai is quite happy to have him here in this land.
And last but not least is the man we should all know
Who I’m positive is nervous. Even debating whether to show.
You see last year, in London, at Horology Forum,
I asked Stephen Forsey a question, forgetting my decorum.
But don’t worry Stephen, it’s fine, no need to be on guard,
For I promise, this time, the questions won’t be hard.
I thank you, my hosts, for all that you’ve done
To make Dubai Watch Week not just educational, but fun
For giving me the honor to sit on this stage
So that together, on horology, we can all write a new page.
If you made it through this entire entry, that means you cared enough to find out what Dubai Watch Week was all about, and for that, I’m pretty happy, because it deserves your research and recognition.
Thanks to my friends and colleagues, namely Gary, Adam, Mike, Justin, Sultan, Serdar, Michael, Miguel, Eleonor, Max, Charris, Grégory, Kristian, Jola, Jason, Robin, Stephen, and of course, Carlos, for making this event even better because of your warmth and kindness.
And finally, thank you to Hind, Melika, Dom, Shruti, and the entire Seddiqi team for trusting me, and for creating something that never existed before, will never be able to be replicated, and will only get better…
As mentioned in the previous blog post (and if you haven’t read it, this one isn’t going to make a whole lot of sense to you, so go read it), I felt it was my duty to create a glossary of watch terms using definitions that were simplified enough for someone like Boris Johnson (aka, a dumbf*ck) to understand. Today’s post is a continuation of that concept. Hope you enjoy this one as much as you seemingly liked the first (or at least, will click on this link as much as you did the other so that my overblown ego stays solidly intact).
While the word was originally defined in the 1990s as, “what guys who own Emporio Armani watches wear multiples of in yellow gold on the opposite wrist”, the term now applies to a part of an actual timepiece.
A bracelet is usually made of metal or ceramic, it is often adjustable, and it can be worn in place of most watch straps.
Not just a weekly card game played by groups of bitter women who sometimes throw tantrums when they feel they’re not winning (and no, this time I’m actually not referring to some of the people I’ve come across in my journalistic career), a bridge is also an essential part of a mechanical watch. A watch’s bridge is a bar or plate attached to the main plate with pins or screws and often labeled for the function or part in which the bridge supports.
FFS, if you don’t know what this is on a watch, don’t waste your money. You have an iPhone. Stick with that, genius.
No, pistol lovers, this isn’t the “Gun Terminology for Dummies” post. You’ll find that in any transcript of any Wayne LaPierre speech ever made. But you may want to check the NRA fan page. I hear it’s “buy one President, get one rifle free.” day.
Caliber, as it pertains to watches, refers to the watch’s movement. An in-house movement should (SHOULD!) refer to a movement made entirely (ENTIRELY!) by the watch manufacturer and not by outside sources.
This is America, so this word doesn’t matter.
Think of this part of a watch as its shell if that shell was waterproof, dust proof, moisture proof, and sometimes, inexperienced-watchmaker proof.
The case of a watch can be simple or ornate; embellished with gems or contain varying degrees of elaborate engraving. It is a large part of what gives any timepiece its beauty while still being as functional as many of the watch’s alternate parts.
(Sigh.) The back part of the definition above.
I’m super excited about this entry because I’m pretty sure this was the first legitimate watch term I ever learned. And while that was only like two weeks ago, still, it holds a special place in that thing in my chest that consistently makes thumpy type noises and causes me pain on a daily basis.
The word, “chronograph” comes from the Greek language and means, simply, “recording time.” Traditional chronograph watches doubled as stopwatches, though some modern chronographs use moveable bezels as tachymeters for calculations of distance as well as speed.
So, apparently the Swiss are the only people who can say whether or not a watch can be considered a certified “chronometer”. Yes, you heard that right, the same country that refused to take a stance in World War I or World War II by, oh, I don’t know, picking a side, has decided that NOW they’ll stand firm in their beliefs when it comes to the label your precious wrist clock should have. But hey, who am I to judge? After all, my father is Italian and my mother is German. (Does this not explain so much about my anger issues?)
All kidding aside (no, seriously Swissies, I don’t care whom exactly I piss off with these cheeky posts, but I certainly wouldn’t want it to be you, because being tortured with a giant cheese grater by an overtly indifferent executor is not the way I picture myself leaving this world), a Swiss wristwatch can be considered a chronometer if the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (or, “COCS” for sho… no… wait… wait, I’m wrong… I’m sorry, I meant “COSC” for short, my bad) deems it so by testing and certifying that these types of mechanical timepieces meet certain precision standards.
As a former metalsmith’s apprentice and junior bench jeweler, this is one definition I’m going to take seriously. The ancient art of cloisonné is still in use in the watch world today, usually seen on a watch’s dial. The decorative technique starts with the use of metal as both a backdrop and in the outline of the design itself (which will also come through in the finished product) before an enamel paste is added then fired in a kiln. Other materials which can be inlayed during the cloisonné process are minerals, gemstones, and glass.
Stay tuned for more definitions in upcoming blog posts. And if you like the artwork seen here, it was once again provided by the extraordinary Lee Yuen-Rapati – aka – OneHourWatch. Find him on Instagram, @onehourwatch, or for inquiries, email him at email@example.com.
When friends text me with a question about watches before adding on the sentence, “Well, I figured I’d ask you because you’re the expert.” I laugh. No, seriously… I’ve been known to soil a couple of phone screens with wine coffee and once I even ruined a perfectly good Madewell blouse (not a sponsored sentence, but hey, Madewell, if you’re reading, call me). What all of this means is that no, dear people, I’m no watch expert nor have I ever claimed to be one. I’m about as far from that title as you can possibly imagine. There may or may not have even been a time where my eyes glazed over as Charris Yadigaroglou of MB&F explained the inner workings of the Legacy Machine Split Escapement before my mind drifted off to a daydream about my own “escape” to Split, Croatia with Charris, himself. (Shit, did I just admit that? I meant to think it.) Hell, I’m STILL trying to figure out why tourbillons have to fly or what the f*ck a 2.5Hz frequency is and why it matters to your everyday buyer, but even without knowing these mind-numbingly dull characteristics of a mechanical watch, I’m still able to tell their stories, because at the end of the day, the story is often what excites people about these timepieces, and if there’s one thing I know how to do and do well, it’s form even what I don’t know into a meaningful narrative that’s palatable to readers, knowledgeable about watches or not.
With that said, I decided it was time to create a glossary of watch terms for people like me. You know, those who are more “Watch Idiot” than “Watch Idiot Savant.” So I’ll be doing a multi-part series defining some of the more frequently-used watch-related words and terms in a way that speaks to the lay person, but whether you’re a “watch expert” or not, I hope you enjoy what you’re about to read. And if you’re the kind that’s easily offended by strong language or sexual innuendos, you may want to close your browser now. You’ve been warned.
While you may have immediately thought of that Welsh alternative band from the 80s known for their high hair and hit, “Sixty Eight Guns”, this isn’t a glossary of rock-n-roll terms, but depending on how many times this post is read, maybe that’s one for the future.
There are many watches out there that have an alarm function which does pretty much exactly what the clock by your bed does, or what your iPhone does, meaning it beeps, chimes, or buzzes, letting you know when it’s time to take your Cialis vitamins.
My, oh my, there are so many ways I’d like to describe this term but rather than go with the X-rated definition, we’ll stick with a simple sentence. Analog watches are non-digital; they’re the type of watches that have hour and minute hands. But fear not, they can be worn comfortably without the use of lubrication. OKAY F*CK IT I WENT THERE.
It means not magnetic. Duh.
While the word is defined by dictionary.com as an “opening, hole, slit, crack, or gap” (I mean, I’m being lobbed softballs in the form of innuendos here and I am really struggling not to take a swing at them), in the watch world, it refers to the cutout (often square, rectangular, or oval [let’s hope you at least know your basic geometry]) on the dial where *indications such as the date or month appear.
*See future definition of indications
The machine from which you’ll withdraw money – lots and lots of money – in order to buy the dive watch in which you’re interested. Also, with reference to terms about said expensive dive watch, “ATM”, in short, stands for “atmospheres” and represents the unit of pressure equivalent to the weight of the earth’s atmosphere at sea level. 3 ATM = 30 meters (100 ft) of depth, 5 ATM = 50 meters (160 ft) of depth, 10 ATM= 100 meters (330 ft) of depth, and so on. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you can wear your dive watch in the ocean as far down as its ATM indicates, though since I’m deathly afraid of the water, I suggest you read anything by Jason Heaton to learn more about how far down you should go with your watch.
Not just a 1984 catchy jam by The Pointer Sisters (which you can view here from their performance on Soul Train), but also a fairly common watch term referring to a mechanical watch that is wound automatically by the movement of the rotor as the wearer moves her arm. That rotor – or, oscillating weight to which it is often referred – tightens, or “winds” the mainspring, thus giving a steady source of energy to the watch.
YAY! I made it to “B” without giving up! This is another one of those watch terms that makes me a little bleary-eyed, but I’ll do my best to explain it to you in the way I wish it would have been explained to me.
A balance spring (or, hairspring) and balance wheel combined make up the heart of a mechanical watch. The balance spring is a flat wired spring which is affixed to the balance cock (I swear I did not purposely use that word. It’s the legitimate term, but it still made me happy to type it) which coils and recoils in order to regulate time through the motion of the balance wheel. (I’m absolutely sure I f*cked up this explanation, but don’t @ me.)
Honestly, writing the last definition was entirely too stressful so I’m just going to ask you to use Google for this one, m’kay?
Easiest. Definition. Ever.
If you’re like I am, you immediately thought of scotch when you saw the above word, and if you did indeed do that, then you and I can be friends. But in watch speak, a barrel is way less fun, a lot more complex, and can’t make you wake up in an empty hotel bed with your Rolex missing and a racoon chewing on your Yeezys in the corner.
In a nutshell, the barrel is an etched cylinder inside of a mechanical watch which houses the watch’s mainspring (see future definition), in turn, housing its power reserve. The larger the barrel, the higher the power reserve, and watches with two barrels (referred to as a “double barrel”) will have an even higher reserve.
Not to be confused with the city in Switzerland that boasts the most expensive sausages and Air BnBs in the world (that would be, “Basel”), the bezel of a watch can either be decorative or functional (whereas the city of Basel is mostly dysfunctional), depending on the watch’s purpose. The bezel is the ring around the watch’s face and crystal and often rotates counterclockwise, though some watches do have bidirectional bezels allowing them to turn forward as well as backward. Bezels are often made in precious metals, steel, or ceramic.
Stay tuned for more definitions in upcoming blog posts. And if you like the artwork seen here, it was provided by the extraordinary Lee Yuen-Rapati – aka – OneHourWatch. Find him on Instagram, @onehourwatch, or for inquiries, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joe Pesci would rather be drowned in a vat of Robert DeNiro’s sweat than have to step foot again in any part of Switzerland.
The actor and I sat down to discuss why gold nugget jewelry will be making a huge comeback and why the “mob” is growing in cities like Gary, Indiana.
Happy April Fool’s Day.
The 91st annual Academy Awards may have no host, but what it lacks in good judgement from a show standpoint, it makes up for in its choices for Best Picture. This year’s pool of Oscar-nominated films is the finest and most diverse group the Academy has selected in years, in my opinion. From a superhero smash hit with a predominantly black cast, to a Netflix original about life in the early seventies in Mexico City, to the number of biographical films addressing sexual identities, the Academy – while not perfect – is slowly recognizing the beauty in our differences, and thankfully, the watch world is starting to do the same.
To celebrate this year’s Academy Award Best Picture nominees, I decided to associate each of them with a new release from watch brands that exhibited at the 2019 edition of the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva this past January. And while you might be sarcastically thinking, “Great, another article about the SIHH”, just know I’m thinking “Great, another a**hole who wants to judge a piece of writing without reading it” in response. So, if you care to read a post about this year’s novelties that’s slightly different than what you’ve read already, carry on. If not, there are a butt-ton of other watch blogs out there to which you can geek out. Cheers!
BlacKkKlansman: Okay, I’m going to go ahead and write about this movie first because it was the most difficult to associate with a watch and feel like I did so respectfully. I’m Caucasian, so there really isn’t a way for me to think like someone who isn’t, which, I feel is part of society’s problem. As a person who grew up on the border of “white and black” West Philly in the seventies and eighties, and then who moved to the projects of South Philly for the rest of my teenage life, I’m probably more aware of racism than many of my white friends, so when I see a “Black Lives Matter” sign in the yards of white people, I often think to myself, “Is this really what black people want to see? Advertising by whites that we support them? Or would they rather we, as a race, just shut up and listen to what they have to say so that we can learn and change?” The reality is, we, as white people, will never understand what it’s like to be pre-judged or to be labeled because of what we look like, and honestly, we shouldn’t act like we do.
BlacKkKlansman is based on a true story of a black officer by the name of Ron Stallworth who infiltrated the KKK and aided in arresting racist members of the police in Colorado the 1970s. Think about that for a moment. He was a black man in the seventies, and without knowing anything about him, people judged him because of what he looked like. As far as picking a watch that I could be associated with that feeling, I struggled. I first thought about the color – black. I could go with any number of PVD coated releases, but to simply pick a watch that was black seemed lazy on my part. Then after speaking to a good friend who is also a watch writer, I thought maybe I’d go the route of an independent watch brand; a brand that released a watch that was unexpected, which, I thought was a good idea at first, but when I looked at the makers, I felt like I couldn’t find a good fit. That’s when it hit me. Which brand came into the SIHH with a release that was already hated ahead of it even being seen? There was only one answer: Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet.
I’ll admit that I, too, was a bit surprised when I first laid eyes on the design in pictures. And even after seeing it – albeit briefly – in Geneva at the SIHH, I was still unsure of how exactly I felt about it. But then in Miami, at this year’s Watches & Wonders, I got to spend some solid time with the watches, and after learning more about the process with which it was made through people like Michael Friedman and Paul Lerner, I found myself feeling guilty that I hadn’t given it the chance it deserved. The selection pictured contains the self-winding AP caliber 4302 which has a minimum 70-hour power reserve, contains 32 jewels, is water-resistant to 30 meters, has a black lacquered dial with 18K pink gold hands and hour markers, a hand-stitched alligator strap, and is 41mm in diameter with a glare proof sapphire crystal case back. You may not like the outward design, but you cannot argue that what’s inside many of the editions of the new Code 11.59 doesn’t get the job done. And for those who haven’t seen it up close, I recommend waiting to voice your negative – or any – opinions until you do.
Vice: While this politically-charged flick starring Christian Bale and Amy Adams is based on the rise of former Vice President Dick Cheney (emphasis on Dick – yeah, I went there), the word “vice” can also have a different meaning, as many of us know. While “vice” as a noun can be defined as “immoral or wicked behavior” it can also mean something which constitutes as a bad habit, like smoking, or drinking, or even, eating things that aren’t good for you. You know… things like candy.
The Richard Mille “Fraise” from their recently released and much discussed Bonbon collection is a watch that could be seen as having many vices. For one, its dial is made up of a cornucopia of sweet treats which were meticulously crafted and placed on the dial by hand. If there is another vice that has to do with Richard Mille watches, however, it could be seen in the sheer ownership of them, or at least, to the spouses or partners of those who may collect them. While the Fraise version has a roughly 55-hour power reserve, automatic winding RM 16-01 caliber movement, and is water resistant to 30 meters, it does indeed come with a $132,500.00 price tag, which may not be as sweet to some as others (but let’s face it, that price is still probably much sweeter than Dick Cheney could ever be).
The Favourite: We all have our favourites (or, in America, our “favorites”), do we not? In this early 18th century period piece about Queen Anne, her somewhat sinister lesbian lover, and that lover’s somewhat sinister cousin Abigail, we are treated to a black comedy (sprinkled with a touch of drama) that not only pleases the vixen in all of us, but also somewhat tugs at our heartstrings. We each have an angel and a devil on our shoulders. We’re all prone to seek out the thrill of the occasional evil while knowing full well it’s the good in us that will prevail in the end. Our hearts can sometimes be split in two; whether that be because of our decisions about right and wrong, or – as in the case with this film – because of our feelings of desire for more than one person, or even, one gender.
It was these reasons that made my decision to associate the Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Twin Beat with this Academy Award nominated film. Well, these reasons as well as the fact that this watch was, hands down, my favorite (or, “favourite”) of all of this year’s releases at the SIHH. What can I say about the Twin Beat that hasn’t already been said by the multitude of ROWPs (that’s, “Reputable Online Watch Publications” for those of you who didn’t attend my panel at last year’s Horology Forum in London) who’ve reviewed the watch already? For a person like me (meaning, a “watch enthusiast-in-training”), the Twin Beat gave me something to be excited about (particularly its 65 days of power reserve on standby mode). It ignited my senses in a way no other watch has done thus far in 2019 because – bells and whistles aside – it is a watch so unlike anything Vacheron Constantin has produced up to this point, and that, alone, makes it the winning duck. #ifyouknowyouknow
Green Book: 2019 was certainly the year for biographical movies and Green Book is no exception. Based on African-American classical and jazz musician Don Shirley’s trip through the Deep South with an Italian night club bouncer as his bodyguard, the film has received rave reviews with regard to the lead performances by Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen (or as I know them best, Boggs from The Hunger Games and Aragorn from the greatest trilogy ever made). Don Shirley was a musician unlike most Americans had seen in the 1950s and 1960s. He was a black man playing classical music, who experimented with jazz, composed and wrote symphonies, and even created a one-act opera. He was highly respected for his talents but the color of his skin – along with his sexual preferences – made him a bit of a disruption once he stepped foot off the stage. Yet even with the threats he received, often by people in power, Shirley continued to do what he knew he did best: play his music.
For this movie’s associated watch, I’ve chosen the Endeavour Tourbillon Concept Cosmic Green by H. Moser & Cie for a handful of reasons. One, its name. An endeavour is defined (in its form as a noun) as an attempt at achieving a goal, which Don Shirley set out to do when he toured the Midwest and the South. But the color of this watch – the Cosmic Green – also reflects the color of the travel guide written for black motorists after which the film is named. To not also state I selected a watch by a brand that tends to make enemies for themselves and is occasionally accused of being disruptive would be misleading, so, there’s that, too. But I also chose it because – full disclosure – I just really like the watch. It has a beautiful sunburst-patterned dial, is a perfect size at 42mm in diameter, contains the automatic caliber HMC 804 movement with bi-directional pawl winding system and a minimum 3-day power reserve, and is accompanied by a gorgeous hand-stitched tan leather strap. I dig it. And I bet the boys in the car headed South would have dug it, too.
Bohemian Rhapsody: As stated previously, this was the year for films based on real people with real struggles, and this flick about Queen front man and music icon Freddie Mercury is no exception. The film follows his career from its beginning to his memorable performance at Live Aid in 1985 (and yes, I’m old enough to remember that performance [insert crying emoji here]) as well as his sometimes controversial path to finding his identity through his desires and relationships both sexually and otherwise.
The art of Milo Manara has, at times, also caused controversy. His erotic works have sometimes been seen as sexualizing women, and I can’t totally argue with that. But while, in certain circumstances, like his drawing of Spider-Woman climbing a roof in a clearly sexual way, in the case of this year’s Ulysse Nardin Erotic timepieces, I found his work to be quite beautiful, and even, a bit bohemian.
The limited-edition watches tell the story of a woman, the sea, its creatures, and a mermaid lover. In them, Manara is able to show off his ability to draw women in the throes of passion, yet with these watches, it is the mermaid who is the one pleasuring another woman orally. Oh, and this watch tells time, too. Just in case you stopped sweating enough to care. The end.
Black Panther: OH THANK YOU, DEITY! We finally have a superhero movie nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards! And what a movie, it is. If you haven’t seen Black Panther, please do. I don’t care if you’re the kind of person who only watches indie flicks at vintage cinemas through your Warby Parker’s while eating kale chips and drinking amaretto sours in lieu of scarfing down popcorn and Coca-Cola (by the way, if you are that person, I kind of hate you), you will still like this movie. And Angela Bassett is in it. And she’s awesome in everything. And it’s on Netflix right now. So go, hipster person. Go now and enlighten yourself. Give yourself up to the Marvel Universe and all of its action-adventure, big box office goodness. WAKANDAAAAAAAAAAA FOREVERRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!
Oh, wait, I almost forgot I had to pick a watch for this movie. I mean, it’s a bit *on the nose*, but how could I not go with the Panthère Dentelle watch by Cartier? OBVS, right? Plus, I haven’t really selected a women’s watch for any of the choices thus far so this works perfectly for that reason alone. The Panthère Dentelle pictured here is stunning in person. It measures 36mm in diameter and comes with a beautiful glossy black alligator strap, but the signature cat on the dial is what pulls the onlooker in. The emerald eyes and 480 round brilliant cut white diamonds pop against the black lacquer spots, and the watch is water resistant to 30 meters just in case one should find themselves spilling their mineral water packaged in eco-friendly carboard at the movie theatre.
Roma: This was also a difficult movie with which to associate any watch, let alone a release from this year. Next to BlacKkKlansman, this was the hardest to depict through something material because the movie is so real, and the story, so vivid and so multi-faceted; sad and joyful in so many ways. Roma is about the life of an indigenous live-in housekeeper and her family and friends in a small neighborhood in Mexico City, but largely, it’s about the daily struggles with which she copes. They are, from the outsider’s point of view, not unlike some struggles of the poor in America, and yet they can also be seen as worlds apart because being poor in America and being poor in some of the violent parts of Mexico are clearly not the same thing.
For this movie, I’m associating the HYT H0 ‘Time is Precious’. The broken mirror-like shards of the watch’s façade remind the wearer that things don’t always look the same, and that something can be seen in a variety of ways, depending on the day, the light, the person’s feelings, or even the time, which, as HYT often reminds us, is fluid. I see this watch and I’m reminded of how quickly life and the circumstances in one’s life can change, and the ‘Time is Precious’ association is as true to that life as it is to the film with which I’ve associated this watch.
A Star is Born: Last but not least… Honestly, I loathe that cliché but hell, what else am I going to say after almost 3000 words? I mean, we’re far from the shallow now, amiright? So, this is one of the more talked about movies of the group for obvious reasons. For one, Bradley Cooper sings… like, actually sings… and he does so while looking amazingly rugged, emotionally fragile, and yet still madly in love with the woman to whom he sings. And she – as we know – represents the majority of us who feel self-conscious about our talents or how we look physically, largely because of what people have told us our entire lives. It is not the first time this story has been depicted on the big screen. This is the fourth time this film has been made with the first being in 1937 and having a script co-written by the inimitable Dorothy Parker. But this is the first time the film has been released in the age of the internet and social media, which has only added to its popularity and the adoration of its lead actors.
There were a couple of watch choices I thought might work well with this movie (and no, sorry, Bradley, none of them was an IWC) but I also had to look at how those watches were perceived by the media or public, in general, after their releases at the SIHH. The watch I decided on was certainly one that I felt found stardom this year: the Arceau L’Heure De La Lune by Hermès. In a similar way that director Bradley Cooper took this age old-story and breathed new life into it by changing how the story was perceived, Hermès takes the idea of the traditional moon phase watch and deconstructs it, using two fixed mother-of-pearl moons (against a star-like aventurine backdrop) showing the Southern and Northern hemispheres represented by the words “sud” and “nord”, while two white lacquer dials – one indicating the hours and minutes and the other the date – hover over the moons while rotating around the dial so that they cover and uncover them according to whatever the current moon phase might be. The watch also contains the Hermès caliber H1837 self-winding movement, measures 43mm in diameter, and is water resistant to 30 meters because you may cry on it when you see this movie or maybe even when you see just how beautiful this watch is.
That’s all, kids. Grab your wine, whiskey, and more wine and be sure to follow me over on the Twitter (@whatsonherwrist and @adornmentality) as I’ll be live-tweeting tonight’s Oscars’ red carpet.
Long live Awards Shows!
What is it about the human desire to be around things that are old? Think about it. We scour antique stores searching for tabletop trinkets made in Transylvania. We hit our local estate sales with the same enthusiasm as a minor league player stepping up to the plate for the very first time. And we’re even happy to buy watches from retail shops that have a layer of dust on their shelves thicker than the Spring issue of Vogue. To us, old can mean established. It can represent wisdom, or endurance, or even reliability. Old means something of substance stood the test of time, which is why displaying time in a building as old as Gotham Hall is as fitting as it is festive.
It could very well be coincidence that the organizers of WatchTime New York chose this curious venue – the former Greenwich Savings Bank building, completed in 1924 – to hold their fair, or it could be that the team did their research and saw the tie-in with time. Greenwich is not just a village in New York City. As we all know (or should know), Greenwich is the area near London which in 1884 was assigned the line of 0 degrees longitude. It is from this point, all terrestrial longitudes are measured, and the world’s time zones are calculated. GMT, also known as Greenwich Mean Time, plays *the* essential role in modern timekeeping. “The whole world takes it’s time from Greenwich” is a line uttered by Dick Van Dyke’s character Bert in the 1964 musical Mary Poppins, and for many a New York-based collector, enthusiast, and watch journalist, the weekend of October 26th, 2018 meant exactly that.
While not an established entity, per se, the days leading up to WatchTime New York have unofficially been dubbed “New York Watch Week” because of the multitude of events and gatherings thrown by brands and retailers, alike.
When an affair such as this is able to gather watch personalities such as Romain Gauthier, Fiona Krüger, Stephen Forsey, Montblanc’s Davide Cerrato, and others in one place at one time, the main event is bound to grow legs, which frankly, is a good thing for the future of the watch industry. Think of the pregame festivities as the watch world’s foreplay before the climax that is Watchtime New York. (Yes, I just drew an analogy between a watch fair and sex [just ask Stephen Forsey] because let’s face it, I can, and if not me, who?) And if WTNY is indeed the climax, then consider the weekly RedBar gathering on the Wednesday before as a solid attempt at reaching first base.
This year’s pre-WTNY RedBar brought in faces seldom seen this side of the pond, with one face in particular being a complete New York newbie: Rexhep Rexhepi, who was going to be showing his creations at the WatchTime show for the first time. Like most human beings who’ve visited New York as a Big Apple virgin, Rexhep was smitten. “Everyone has been so nice” he said, and I thanked my lucky stars he hadn’t yet visited Brooklyn before making that statement.
Attendees of Wednesday’s RedBar were treated to another surprise… a guest appearance by watch connoisseur, artist, and actor, Aldis Hodge, who for some reason, willingly stayed until “closing ceremonies”, giving those in attendance a line we won’t soon forget: “Wow, this looks like all kinds of bad decisions.” Indeed it was, Aldis. Indeed… it… was.
The Main Event
As with previous editions of WTNY, this year’s fair also included a variety of seminars and talks in order to further the horological education of those in attendance. The talks included a discussion on the future of watch collecting, a panel with American watchmakers and designers, and an opportunity to meet and ask questions of some of the independent watchmakers mentioned earlier in this post.
What was also refreshing to see with regard to WatchTime New York, was just how many women were in attendance, whether they be running the show (women like Sara Orlando, Minda Larsen, and Ana Martins are largely responsible for keeping this thing going), attending the show as collectors, working the show as watchmakers (shout out to my homegirl Nat at Jaeger-LeCoultre!) or exhibitors, or covering it as members of the press. It felt as if this year saw a real increase in women attendees which will hopefully nudge the big brands even more to pay attention to those often forgotten in the past.
But the biggest takeaway from WatchTime New York that any person with a pulse could summon is that they directly reach the often unreachable: the everyday buyer. Is it an event that welcomes serious watch collectors? Sure, but collectors aren’t the only buyers in the marketplace. WTNY is open to the public for a minimal ticket price, which means the average Joe/Joanne can attend and not be afraid to ask questions, unlike if they stepped foot into a high-end watch retailer. Look, I’m only as successful (sort of) as I am because I am able to reach the people who are novices; because I have been able to learn about this business while taking my reader along with me for the ride. Not every reader out there is schooled in horology, nor do many of them even know what a flying tourbillon is (or care), so to have a trade fair that is inclusive to both the dilletantes as well as the novices is important to the future of this industry, and Watchtime New York accomplishes this task successfully and has so year after year.
So, kudos to the organizers for another great event. Hopefully New York will become a force to be reckoned with in the very near future as it pertains to the worldwide watch industry, and with Baselworld going through the changes it currently is, the future looks about as bright in New York City as a big, shiny apple. (The fruit. Not the wannabe watch.)
(Images provided by WatchTime New York)
“If all time is eternally present/All time is unredeemable.”
The above lines were taken from the “Burnt Norton” poem in T.S. Eliot’s famed works, The Four Quartets. And while many refer to the poet as being an American because he was born in St. Louis, Eliot had technically renounced his United States citizenship in 1927 after legally becoming a British subject. Despite what was written on his 1888 birth certificate, Eliot considered himself to be quite the Englishman until the day of his death in 1965, and it is widely known that the poet lived his life obsessed with a single primary concept…
The first international Horology Forum took place on September 11th and 12th in the heart of London. The event – the brainchild of the creators of Dubai Watch Week and co-sponsored by Christie’s auction house – invited experts and novices alike to attend a series of thought-provoking panels and take part in free-flowing discussions in order to “bridge the widening generation gap between tradition and innovation,” according to the forum’s organizers. In other words, a slew of folks from all over the world gathered in the city where T.S. Eliot took his final breaths and likely closed the book on his obsession with time.
The forum itself consisted of five panels (Battle of the Soothsayers; Cultural Clout – the iBuyer Cult; The British Watch Industry: Colonizing Greenwich Meridian; When David Clocks Goliath; and, Genta and Daniels’ Punctual Yet Untimely Legacy), and one good ol’ fashioned British roast (which actually turned out to be a bit more of a ‘warming’ due to the very British politeness of those on the panel).
As an honored invitee to the event and guest moderator for the iBuyer Cult panel, I was treated not only to the experience of listening to and learning from speakers such as Peter Speake-Marin, Mohammed Abdulmagied Seddiqi, Fabrizio Buonamassa, Grégory Dourde, Christine Hutter, and Roger Smith, but was also able to take part in additional events such as a fascinating seminar at Christie’s Late on
how color plays a major role in watchmaking (and always has throughout history), and an auctioneer training class that happened prior to Wednesday’s first panel discussion. Members of the press were also given the opportunity to interview the speakers and the moderators, allowing me to take full advantage of one-on-one time with H. Moser & Cie CEO Edouard Meylan, actor and watch designer Aldis Hodge, and Christie’s SVP and International Head of Watches John Reardon.
Mr. Reardon told me about his first experience with mechanical watches. “I will share a story today I never shared before,” he said to me when we first sat down for his interview, “because I’m inspired by the Princess Leia sticker you have on your computer. When I was six or seven years old, my parents, for Christmas, gave me a Buck Rodgers plastic watch. I was obsessed with sci-fi things as a child. It was a mechanical watch with plastic gears, and they were all different colors. I still have it to this day, and it still doesn’t work, because the first thing I did was take it apart. I was curious, ‘how does this little machine work?’ so I took it apart and tried to put it back together. I was inspired and curious as to how these little objects tell time, from a little kid’s perspective.”
Mr. Hodge also allowed me to take a glimpse into his childhood, to where his passion for watches and watch design began. “I love natural elements. I had a scientific mind when I was younger; I always wanted to be an engineer of some sort. For me, [getting into watchmaking] is a staple of achievement because I’ve been an actor since I was 2 or 3 years old. I would have had to quit that entirely in order to achieve my academic desires, but with watchmaking, that sort of encompasses art, architecture, engineering, and science.”
My conversation with Mr. Meylan delved more into his thoughts on the changes occurring in Basel, his company’s presence there, and which markets around the world he sees as becoming key players in the success of his brand. “Right now, for us, our two biggest markets are Asia and Europe, with Hong Kong and Switzerland being substantial. Germany and France are also good markets for us in Europe. But the two markets where we are seeing the strongest growth are definitely the Middle East and the United States. My brother just moved to Dubai, actually. We opened an office there, and the brand is really doing well.”
What Horology Forum and Dubai Watch Week succeed at accomplishing, where some other horologically-themed events falter, is invoking discussions that are current and relevant, and which are also hot topics often able to be intelligently debated. The panel I moderated is a perfect example of this. When I asked Scottish watch designer Fiona Krüger if there was a time when a watch world dilettante ever commented on one of her designs via the internet, she said that they had and proceeded to give an example of a remark made on her most recent watch release, the Chaos Mechanical Entropy. “One of the examples I got online was, ‘somebody take her computer away’ to which my reaction was, ‘I’m sorry mate, but I draw everything by hand in a sketch book, so, unlucky for you.’” We eventually moved the panel in the direction of influencers – particularly on social media – and whether or not the term is seen as a “dirty word” in the horological world. Watch brand D1 Milano’s founder Dario Spallone was the first to offer an opinion. “For me, an influencer is someone who influences the purchasing habit of the consumer. It’s not only about being an Instagram influencer. It’s also about being someone who – in real life – intertwines with the brand’s values.” And while discussion and debate happened naturally during each of Horology Forum’s panels, it was the eventual audience participation that left many wanting more. This is where the beauty of this event truly blooms into something spectacular, and this is why it’s incredibly important to gather people from every area of the watch world – be they designer, watchmaker, savant, collector, journalist, blogger, executive, retailer, or novice – in order to better understand our industry. What we, as attendees of Horology Forum and Dubai Watch Week, get to experience is the horological world through someone else’s eyes. We get to look at how the masters see their life’s work, at how artists are inspired, at what writers find interesting, and at what retailers do to speak to their customers. If every industry – heck, if every government – held an event yearly like this, we’d likely find that we’d see one another in a different way, and that we’d understand each other or, at bare minimum, hear each other out. I doubt that everything discussed at Horology Forum was agreed upon by all those in attendance, but it also wasn’t supposed to be. The event was created to make us think, at least in my opinion it was, and it certainly made me think long and hard about why I chose to write about watches and how I’ll see them in the future.
My days spent in London leading up to and including this event were invaluable. Listening to the stories about Gérald Genta and the “rebirth” of British watchmaking were indispensable. And gaining the knowledge I did while still a rookie in the world of watch journalism was, well, irreplaceable. But mostly, the entire experience is one that will remain truly unforgettable.
The final experience we had as a collective group was a beautifully arranged dinner at Boulestin, courtesy of our hosts. There, we were invited to relax in the company of our peers, sip fine wine and eat delicious French fare before saying our final goodbyes and heading off to our little corners of the Earth. It was a magnificent send-off filled with warmth and cheer, and I’m ever grateful to all of those who made it possible, and who also asked me to play such an important part in it.
So, to Melika Yazdjerdi – whom I had the pleasure of interviewing prior to this year’s Horology Forum – I congratulate you on a truly special, successful, one-of-a-kind experience. Your vision comes to life in this event, and we in the watch community owe you a debt of gratitude. To Hind Seddiqi and your entire team of AMAZING WOMEN, I cannot thank you enough. I have never felt so welcomed and so valued in the watch community as I had during this event. Thank you so, so much. To Shruti Dileep, what can I say? Thank you for being my “go-to” for everything; every question, every need, every worry. You’re the best. And to Dominique Mahoney, well, I feel like we were separated at birth, and I’ll just leave it at that. I cannot wait to work with you again someday. Thank you to John Reardon and those at Christie’s who helped to make this possible, and special thanks to everyone at Seddiqi Holdings who played a part in the organization and follow-through of Horology Forum.
“I journeyed to London, to the timekept City/Where the River flows, with foreign flotations.” – T.S. Eliot, The Rock
“The only way to break out is to gamble.” – Jerry Jones
Las Vegas, June 3rd, 2016.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been there for work about four or five billion times (or so I’ve felt). Maybe it’s because “fake” isn’t my thing, so the fake city, fake Eiffel Tower, fake cheekbones, fake sculptures, and fake fun doesn’t really appeal to me. Or, maybe it’s because paying $27 for a mediocre gin martini presented to me by an obsequious “mixologist” seems, oh, I don’t know, like something Dean Martin would be really pissed off about if he were alive today. But man, I REALLY hate Las Vegas. Hate hate it. Like, how my eight-year-old daughter hates green foods, or like how Canadians hate the word “hate” because let’s be honest, in their minds, it could just as easily be replaced by the word “like” in any sentence. But on this night, I found myself in Las Vegas, three months into writing this here watch blog, and two glasses of wine into the COUTURE Show opening party at the Wynn hotel, sponsored by none other than LVMH watch brand, TAG Heuer.
One doesn’t have to be a WIS to know the back story of Jean-Claude Biver; one simply has to be somewhat literate and hopefully have a pulse to be even vaguely aware of the watch world giant. By the time I made the decision to take my writing over to the watch side, I’d read my fair share of articles and heard my fair share of stories of the man who many describe still as “larger than life.”
I remember just having wrapped up a conversation with Scott Saunders of London Jewelers when Mr. Biver was introduced, before he graciously took the microphone as he stepped on to the COUTURE Show stage. His remarks seemed quaint to me at first; simple, and yet substantial. Everyone in the crowd stood still, patiently hanging on to JCB’s words which were becoming more intense by the second.
“ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE!” he finally exclaimed loudly into the mic, giving credit to the Beatles for a line that even the millennials in the room would recognize. Love. He was yelling about love. Here was a man so bold, and so recognized, and so successful, and he was talking to a room full of jewelry and watch people about a universal emotion as simple – and as complicated – as love. About the power of love. About the positivity of love. And about love’s effect on everything we do in our lives and every decision we make. “All you need… is love.”
By the time he left the stage, the room acted as if it had just witnessed a modern-day prophet perform a miracle for the ages. People were cheering so vehemently I wondered if Mr. Biver would actually come back out and sing “Freebird” while we all swayed and raised our cigarette lighters. It was astonishing to witness and awe-inspiring at the same time. I wanted to start hugging strangers in the room and tell them I loved them (but I didn’t because when you do that in Vegas, people get the wrong idea about what you actually do for a living). I was invigorated, and felt kind of… well, lucky… and when you’re feeling lucky in Vegas there’s really only one place to go…
Vegas was built for a reason, and that reason was money, and money alone. Gambling is the fabric used in the tattered quilt that blankets the city, and to go and not gamble even once seems almost sacrilegious, so I decided to head inside to the Wynn’s grand casino and take my chances at the tables.
The sounds of coins falling and bells ringing are synonymous with Vegas. The smell of a casino floor can’t be replicated – nor should it – as the lingering feelings of both hope and despair hang tauntingly in the recycled air. Yet as I strolled through the crowds of thirty-something bachelors and their nightly rent-a-dates toward the blackjack area, I could see a figure walking quickly toward me in the mix of what would appear to be an entourage.
It was The Prophet, himself: Mr. Jean-Claude Biver.
I’d never met him before, nor had I met anyone in the watch world who held a position such as his. I was new still, and green, and honestly, I didn’t know crap about the industry. But he was headed my way, and I knew that if I didn’t at least tell him that I liked his speech, I’d lose an opportunity I might never get again. But what happens if I stop him and he wants to talk watches? I can’t fake it! Vegas or not, I suck at bullshitting.
The more I thought about it, the closer he got, and when he had just walked past me, I idiotically blurted out his name.
He turned toward me, almost startled, and his people turned too.
“I’m Barbara Palumbo. I write a watch blog called WhatsOnHerWrist. It’s sort of focused on women. I’m a fan though, and I saw your speech, and I just wanted to meet you.”
He smiled his wide, toothy smile as he walked back toward me and took my business card from my outstretched and slightly shaking hand, before reaching into his pocket and handing me his in return.
We spoke for a few minutes, once I calmed my nerves, and he told me to email him any time if I had any questions or needed anything. Then he shook my hand, and he and his people walked off into the desert night while I stood there staring at the plain white business card which bore his name.
Upon my return home to Atlanta, I wrote a recap of my experience at COUTUREtime and decided to take Mr. Biver up on his offer, so I emailed it to him, and to my surprise, received a reply within the hour:
“Hello Barbara, thank you for your email and article! I enjoyed reading it and could imagine you enjoying writing it. Hope to catch up with you soon.”
It was, for someone like me, a moment I won’t soon forget.
You see, I guess I’m still green. I like people who are nice to me; who take the time to mentor me, and do right by me, knowing that I’m in this to learn, and that no matter what happens, or what road bumps I hit, I’m not giving up. I like writing about brands who employ good people; positive people. I enjoy sharing their stories because this industry is about more than mere material possessions with a history. Watches ARE their people. Watches wouldn’t exist without their designers or their creators or their marketers or sellers or CEOs or those, like me, who tell their stories. And this simple moment – this gamble that I took in Vegas at the very beginning – put me on the right mental path, because it showed me that someone as important to the watch world as Jean-Claude Biver was willing to take the time and share a kind word of support with someone like me, who was just starting out.
So, to you, Mr. Biver, I say “cheers” today. Cheers on celebrating your 69th birthday, on celebrating forty extraordinary years doing what you seemingly love, and on deciding to take time for you in a different way than you had been recently. We know that you’re still around for those of us who have questions or need anything, but speaking for myself, you already gave me what it was I needed.
Thank you, sir. I guess that’s really all I wanted to say through this story. Merci.
Last November I had the privilege of being invited to attend my first ever Dubai Watch Week which I wrote about here on this very blog. It was unlike anything I’d experienced in the watch industry before; there were classes for things like enameling, engraving, and watchmaking. And there were presentations by big-named brands that were more intimate than those which occur at the trade shows. But the part that stood out most for me was the Horology Forum; a series of panel discussions covering a variety of topics and including an even wider variety of personalities and experts from a wide range of the watch world.
This year, in lieu of a complete program in Dubai, the organizers of Dubai Watch Week joined forces with Christie’s to bring the Horology Forum concept to London. I sat down this week with Melika Yazdjerdi — Director of Dubai Watch Week — to find out about the first edition of the International Horology Forum and if we can expect to see more editions in the future.
BP: So happy to be in London, Melika, and thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. When did the idea for the International Horology Forum first come to mind? Was it before or after the 2017 edition of Dubai Watch Week?
MY: When we developed the blueprint for Dubai Watch Week back in 2015, we wanted to create different programs with the goal that it would eventually evolve into a self-sustaining and independent horological entity. The Horology Forum is one of the key programs that drives the progression of Dubai Watch Week and we have been waiting for the right time to launch the first international chapter. The whole point of the Horology Forum was always to unite watch industry players from all around the globe with ease and in a casual manner. Like the nature of the free-flowing content of the Forum, the event is malleable and is not constricted to a location or time.
BP: Who are you hoping to see in attendance at the inaugural event taking place in London this September? Is it geared toward any one group in particular?
MY: We hope to see collectors, journalists and anyone with an appreciation for the art of time keeping. We also anticipate new collectors or novice enthusiasts interested in delving deeper into horology and meeting patrons of the industry. It is always important to reach new audiences or even old skeptics and bridge the ever-growing gap between the puritans and innovators.
BP: Was there a reason London, specifically, was chosen as the location for the International Horology Forum?
MY: It was a mutual decision between the Christie’s and the Dubai Watch Week team as London is an important horological market and has a rich heritage in the industry. A great number of collectors and watch enthusiasts as well as some prominent figures of the community are based there, which makes it the platform for the first international Horology Forum. London is also a centralized city, similar to Dubai’s demographic make up which is a great melting pot for us to cater to. Geographically, London is accessible to a majority of the members in the industry, marrying the European, Asian, and American markets.
BP: Do you have plans to have more Horology Forums take place in the future? If yes, would you consider alternate locations and how frequently would you like to see an International Horology Forum take place?
MY: The Horology Forum is an annual event and an integral part of the Dubai Watch Week programs. The aim is to have forum held every alternate year at Dubai Watch Week, and every other year abroad. As for its location, we do not plan on committing to a single destination internationally.
BP: What can attendees expect to experience at the first International Horology Forum that they would not experience elsewhere in the watch world?
MY: In addition to harvesting a relaxed and impactful environment for riveting discussions between our panelists, we are focusing on the revival of the British horological legacy. Together with Christie’s, we are also organizing the first “Auctioneer Training” in the Horology Forum for the media, so that they can have firsthand experience in the art of auction sales. Furthermore, a new activity will be introduced this year called “The Roast” where audience members will ask the ‘Roast Panelists’ Carte Blanche questions to further enrich a genuine exchange of information and ideas.
BP: How did the partnership with Christie’s Auction House come to fruition for this event?
MY: Christie’s has been a principal supporter of Dubai Watch Week and has been a partner since the first edition of Dubai Watch Week. Each year, we develop and introduce new pioneering programs and initiatives with the aim to educate and preserve the rich heritage of the colorful horological history.
BP: Will Horology Forum be geared more toward watch collectors and watch experts, or will novices also benefit from being in attendance?
MY: The event is catered to everyone who understands and appreciates the art of horology.
BP: And lastly, when should we expect to hear more about the next edition of Dubai Watch Week?
MY: The 4th edition will be dedicated to showcasing the ingenuity and creativity of the industry, aptly themed, Innovation and Technology. There is an astronomical amount of talent, skill, modernism, and dedication when it comes to the watch industry, and we would like to celebrate that aspect. We plan to share more details by the end of the year.
Many thanks to Melika Yazdjerdi for taking the time to share her thoughts with me about Horology Forum which starts tomorrow, September 11th, and runs through September 12th. You can find the complete list of panel discussion topics here.